This, “I’m Too Old” Business Part 2


After penning and sharing my post yesterday on dealing with being an older person looking for work, I was grateful to receive commentary from among others, James and Jeffrey. By the way, feedback is always welcome on any blog I pen; this is how we help each other through commentary, questioning, supporting, challenging, adding new perspectives etc. So a big thank you to James, Jeffrey and all the rest of you who take the time to comment periodically.

As much as James agreed with the advice about improvements in personal appearance, he raised an excellent point that one’s resume detailing their work experience and education often dates a person and they may never get to that interview to showcase their vigor and energy. James also asked about the response I gave James in suggesting a résumé shouldn’t go back beyond 10 years; he has progressive experience that showcases 20 years.

So let’s look at the résumé from both the viewpoint of the employer and the applicant. As an applicant, it is essential to remember that this résumé is your personal marketing document; you are in full control of what you put on it and how you phrase it. Think about your image or brand. How do you want to come across and what exactly are you showcasing ?

The older worker generally feels they have a lot of experience to share; their sheer years in the workforce alone is something of which they are proud, as this makes up much of their value proposition. While young workers will highlight recent education and enthusiasm to launch their careers, older workers often feel their longevity and rich employment history is their decided advantage. By removing much of one’s history from a résumé, it’s as if that rich history is being dismissed, hence the reason many find it hard to let go and drop work history beyond the previous 10 years.

The 10 years by the way is an industry guideline and not a hard and fast rule. There are times when work beyond that 10 year period is relevant to the job you’re going for now, and adding it will give you an edge, so just be aware of this. However, adding that job from 1984 on your résumé has a big down side; you may come across as a fossil; the employer imagining you’ll show up for the interview on life support and within a few moments ask about the company health benefit plan.

One major flaw that many older workers make is drawing attention at the top of their résumé to their extensive work experience. One of the first things I sometimes read goes along the lines:

Dedicated professional with 25 years’ experience in …

Employer’s read these 7 words and think, “25 years of work, they started out when they were 25, so they must be around 50 right off the bat.” Hmm…. you might as well have put your age right beside your name at the top. What you’re proud of sharing as an asset is interpreted as a liability. How frustrating then to think the 2 hours you put into crafting that résumé for a single job blew up after 7 words and 3.5 seconds of time reading!

So if the job ad requests 3-5 years’ experience and you’ve got this plus another 10 or so, don’t think you’re an obvious choice for an interview by adding that. You can’t really lie either and say you have 5 years experience when you have more, so what to do? Consider this..

“Proven experience…, Demonstrated expertise… or Mastery of … ” There’s no indication of actual years, therefore nothing to feel you have to apologize for because you didn’t misrepresent yourself. Ah, but further down the résumé, what about the real years beside each job? Surely they’ll get what they are after, (and coincidentally what you want to hide) eventually, you just delayed the inevitable reveal until they scanned the middle of your résumé.

Some résumé writers will omit dates, others will put, ‘8 years’ rather than putting ‘2000 – 2008’ etc. Some recommend no dates at all. This might not be the answer that will satisfy you as a reader attempting to learn the industry standard, but in truth, there are a number of approaches you can take on a résumé in the Experience section, and I’d have to be sitting with you and know your personal circumstances to intelligently give you my idea on how best to approach your unique situation. That’s not a cop-out, that’s recognizing that you personally have to be happy with the layout and approach we settle on, and it has to fulfill the employer’s side; call it tailoring your approach.

As for employers, they do want to know what your education is and how much experience you have doing the work they need done. Remember that saying, “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks”? This is one knock against the older worker and it’s a stereotype. You want to combat this and prove you’re not in this mold? Good, so where’s the evidence on your résumé that you’ve taken some learning recently? Haven’t got any? Take an online, night or day school course. Get that on your résumé with, ‘2018’ prominently beside it.

Now the résumé is only designed to get you to the interview recall. Once there, expand on your rich experience – the stuff you didn’t add on paper. Here’s where the details of yesterday’s piece kick in.

You can do this, and I’m in your corner.

“Job? I Just Need A Resume”


Yesterday I stood facing and talking with 5 people who had shown up at a résumé workshop. Before we really got started, I engaged them in some small talk, asking each person what job or career they were looking for. Here’s who was in the room:

  • A late 40’s woman with 20 years experience working with the homeless who stated she had no formal degree or diploma in the field, but did have a certificate in the hairdressing industry.
  • A 60-year-old man who said he could no longer do what he’d done much of his life and didn’t really have any idea what he wanted to do for the next 5-8 years of his life in terms of work.
  • A couple in their 40’s who looked like they’d lived a rough life; him with no computer skills at all, her with grade 8 education. They’d both lost their jobs as a Superintendent couple due to some negligence on their part. They too had no idea what they wanted to do – they just needed resumes though to get work.
  • A late 20’s year old guy who wanted a factory job – for now. He had no idea of a long-term goal, but was somewhere between no longer wanting to wash dishes and whatever he’d eventually do.

Okay, so of the 5 people above, the fellow in his 20’s is the only one who knows what job he’s after. He’s the one who you could sit with one-to-one and start looking for factory or warehouse jobs and build a targeted resume. In doing so, it  becomes necessary to take his past experiences and highlight his transferable skills, emphasize his physical stamina, good health, work ethic etc.; the qualities needed by the employers in the job ads we looked at. Good on him for at least knowing what he’d like to do in the short-term while he figures out what to do long-term. He will be at the least, earning some income, learning and improving upon some job skills, and these will keep him attractive to future employers.

The woman who showed up with 20 year’s experience working with the homeless said that she wanted to work with the disadvantaged; be they teens, young adults etc. however, she admitted with no formal training over the past 20 year’s, she was finding it tough. I applauded her for having a pretty accurate picture of her circumstances. She’d be pretty hard-pressed to compete with the competition in her field who would present Child and Youth Worker or Social Service Worker Diploma’s. Her 20 year’s experience might even work against her not for her in the view of some employer’s who want to mold and shape their newest hire without having to have someone leave behind how they’ve done things elsewhere.

To her credit, she’d been thinking of a return to school to get the formal education that would compliment her experience, and vastly improve her employment opportunities. I think what she really needed was the validation of someone in the field agreeing with her that this was a good plan.

Now the 60-year-old man was new to the area, devoid of contacts, resources and knowledge of the community in which he now finds himself. I felt for him; here he was with an active, intelligent mind but a body that no longer let him to do the physical work he’d done his whole life. Reinventing himself at 60 was scary; where to begin? What to do? Time slipping by each day he delayed in moving ahead but not having any idea what direction to move in. Hard to do a résumé when the desired goal is so clouded, so for him the answer wasn’t a resume at all but rather a career exploration class with a healthy number of self-assessments to get a better handle on his skills, interests and abilities.

The couple? They were the most challenging to me. Insistent on just needing a résumé for each of them but again no idea of what the résumé was made for. With no interest in taking the time to better understand themselves, their interests etc., they were just focused on getting a résumé – any résumé it seemed. When I hear this from people, I believe there is a motive existing I’m unaware of. Who needs the résumé really? The person themselves or someone else; like a Caseworker, a government agency, someone providing them with help – provided they show up with a résumé. Hey I might be wrong but….

In each case, I didn’t make a résumé at all. Rather, I booked each of them  in for a personal resume consultation of an hour and a half. Between the first meeting yesterday and their appointed times, I’ve asked them to look at what’s available and come with a better idea of what they might like to do. A specific job posting makes crafting a résumé so much more beneficial.

“But if I bring you an ad”, began the guy with the spouse, “and you make me a résumé for that job, then I’ll need another one when I apply for another job.” I guess I’d got my point across after all; one resume for one job and a separate resume for each job application. He gets it. I know it sounds daunting – especially for someone with no computer skills. A class on basic computer skills is a good idea to get started.

Not Contributing? Just Hanging On?


You’ve met them and you recognized the tell-tale signs almost immediately; the apparent lack of interest and focus, the extended breaks and lunch periods, the internet surfing that doesn’t seem work-related whatsoever. I refer to the people who have lost their enthusiasm for what they once were passionate about; the ones who everyone around them knows should move on, but who for reasons of their own just keep hanging on.

It’s ironic that what such a person believes they are hiding so well from others is so blatantly obvious to anyone who spends any time at all with them. From the moment they park their car or get off the bus, you can see it there in their body language. You know, the casual saunter in to the office not a minute too soon or possibly even a few minutes past one’s starting time – on a regular basis. There’s no ambition to arrive a moment earlier than necessary, for there are 7 or more long hours in front of them to do whatever mundane tasks that come their way.

Of the real work that they are paid to do, there’s a noticeable drop in both quality and quantity. Frequent walks around the office, conversations with other employees, nipping out for a walk, doing their personal online shopping on company time or talking with people on the phone which appears to be personal and not professional – well, you get the idea.

So why do they hang around? Why not just chuck it in and get on with pursuing their retirement, a hobby or investing themselves in pursuing other lines of work they would be better suited for? Good questions!

For some of course it’s the pension. The longer one stays employed the more they are building up some company or government pension perhaps. Maybe they’ve looked ahead at their looming retirement and figured that whatever pension they receive will be based on their 5 best years of income, and so it makes sense to them to keep showing up for another 3 years to maximize that benefit for the duration of their retired years. Those 3 years seem like a prison sentence.

Thing is, it’s not just the employee now who is underperforming. Their quality of work has the potential to cause others to cut their own efficiencies to match the senior worker. After all, if he or she is dogging it and underperforming but from all appearances isn’t in any danger of losing their job, some others might feel inclined to do likewise.

Somehow though these senior staff seem to have immunity to discipline; well it can look that way to their fellow employees. After all they reason, everyone knows the quantity of work has dropped because others have had to pick up the slack. The fact that they keep coming in every day and underperforming would seem to show that nothing has been said to them or if it has, it’s fallen on deaf ears.

It could be a whole combination of things going on in that person’s professional and personal life that’s caused this drop in production and plain malaise. Personal disappointment that they didn’t advance in the organization as they once imagined; lack of recognition for what they’ve achieved, jealousy over others accomplishments they see as their juniors. Outside of the workplace, there could be pressures such as strife at home, health or financial problems, a mortgage that won’t be paid off 5 years after retiring, more financial strains caused by changes in family size, new grandkids, car payments, promised exotic trips that will put pressure on one’s savings. Who knows?

Weighing a persons contributions in the past to their present value is a tough position to be in for management. An employee might have the broad respect of the entire workforce for what they’ve added to a company or team, but the flip side of that coin is, “What have you done for us lately?” After all, businesses must stay competitive and their workers diligent to compete. Dead wood on the payroll at any level is a liability some organizations just can’t tolerate.

Of course other workers would be wise to focus not on the performance of others but rather on doing their own jobs to the best they are able. When it becomes problematic is when the actions, (or lack of actions) of one impact on the performance of others. So a Customer Service Representative who isn’t getting back to their client base, resulting in increased workloads of co-workers dealing with angry and frustrated callers who feel ignored becomes a major problem. Those frustrated customers might just take their business elsewhere and even more damaging, spread the word.

Know when it’s time to go and go out on top. Sounds like a reasonable plan when your highly productive, retirement is 18 years away and you’re still working with drive and commitment to excellence. Just about anyone can see this in others. Be it an élite athlete who’s lost their lustre or a musician that can’t reach the notes they once hit with dependability, there comes a time when … well, it’s time. Not many can hang around and still perform.

Look, you have to do what is right for you based on your own personal situation. However, the same holds true for employers with businesses to run. It won’t do you any good to be forced out. That could leave you bitter and resentful; and it’s likely you don’t want that to be your legacy.

Re-Inventing Yourself?


Whether by choice or necessity, have you ever, or are you now in a place where you’re re-inventing yourself? You know, moving in a completely new direction from what you’ve typically done work-wise in the past. Depending on your circumstances, this can be an exhilarating time of hope, possibilities and uncharted exploration, or it can be fraught with stress, desperation, anxiety and worry.

So, is it starting to sound like I’m speaking to you directly? There’s actually a good chance that this resonates with you to some degree because all of us have times in our lives where we assume new roles. This is important to both hear and comprehend; all of us go through this.

It’s true you know… becoming a teenager then an adult, being a parent or grandparent, the first job where we joined the ranks of the employed, leaving one job for another. There are all kinds of moments in our lives when we transitioned from one role to another. But somehow, changing your career at this particular time in your life seems markedly different from all those other transitions. This is magnified when you feel forced to make the change instead of initiating change out of a personal desire.

For a lot of folks, the anxiety is stirred up wondering what to actually do. It’s like that year in high school where you had to make a decision on what you wanted to be when you grew up. As awkward as that period might have felt way back then, it pales in comparison to the present where you’re no longer 17 or 18 years old with your entire work life in front of you. No, now you’re looking at yourself and wondering, “what am I going to do at my age?”

For the men and women who have been in positions of labour their whole lives, this idea of needing a new vocation could be brought about because their bodies are no longer able to take the physical demands of their trade. While the body is refusing to do what it’s always done, the brain is fully capable and stress is caused because the work they’ve done is only what they know. It’s like laying bricks for 37 years and then the back and knees give out, so the Bricklayer struggles trying to figure out what else they could do.

Sometimes the body isn’t the problem though. Sometimes the prevailing problem is of a mental rather than physical issue; the need to change careers is however just as valid. For many, there is still the notion – completely wrong in my opinion – that a mental health issue needs to be concealed, while a physical issue can be more easily shared and understood. So the person with two bad knees and a back issue gets empathy and understanding while the person with anxiety and depression draws more skepticism and doubt. As a result, some people hide their mental health challenges as long as they can, thereby making it difficult if not impossible to get the very support and help they need to move forward.

A good place to start when you have to re-invent yourself is taking stock of what you have on hand. Imagine yourself on a ship with your destination fully known and suddenly waking up one day to find yourself shipwrecked on an island. You need to survive so you take stock of what resources you have. You don’t go off exploring your surroundings without first taking your bearings and assessing your needs and your resources.

Using that analogy, you’ve gone through – or are going through – the shock of an abrupt change in your work life. The future is going to be very different from your past and while you understand this on an intellectual level, you’re at that crossroads trying to figure out in what direction to move. You’re worried perhaps that with the limited time and resources you have available, you can’t afford to just move in any old direction in case you choose wrong. If only you could look ahead and see the rewards and pitfalls in all directions and then decide. Life doesn’t always work this way though; as you more than anyone has just found out because you didn’t foresee where you are now in your future just a few years ago.

So take stock of your skills, experiences both paid and volunteer. What did you like and dislike about the work you’ve done in the past. What are you physically capable of and mentally able to take on? It may be that the very best thing you can do is give yourself the gift of a short break. Yes money might be tight but if you can free up funds for a short trip to somewhere you feel good in, you may do wonders for your mental health.

Getting a booklet on courses from a community college or university might enlighten you  to jobs you haven’t considered; and you might discover funding assistance at the same time to go back to school if you wish.

This crossroads you’re in could be a blessing too. You’ve got time now to really think about what to do with your life; something some people who dislike their current jobs would envy you for. When you’re ready, and definitely not before, reach out and share your thoughts with someone you who’ll listen with an open mind.

All the very best as always!

Discriminated Against For Being Older?


My job as an Employment Counsellor brings me into contact with a wide spectrum of people. Whenever I sit down with someone I invariably get around to asking them why they are unemployed; what they see as their barriers standing between them and working. One of the most common things I hear is, “My age might be a problem.”

The question of how old is too old comes up a lot. I’ve met some very active people in their 60’s who can outwork people half their age. By contrast I’ve seen some people in their early 40’s who move and behave like their 80.

I want to admit right upfront that there is a limited amount you can do to change the beliefs, attitude and yes prejudices of an interviewer or company that has determined what they regard as too old to hire. Having said that however, there is a lot you have 100% control over when it comes to the issue of age. It should come as no surprise that some of you reading this post will take my admission that there’s a limited amount you can do as justification for doing nothing. Others will gravitate to the positives; the proactive suggestions which can lead an interviewer or organization to reconsider their original position and extend an offer of employment to an older applicant.

First of all let’s look at what employers are concerned about with respect to aging workers. These may or may not apply to you, but as broad generalizations, some employers concerns with older workers are that they are:

  • set in their ways, resistant to learning new methods
  • education is dated, ongoing professional development poor
  • physical limitations, slowing down; a drain on health benefits
  • out of touch with technological advancements
  • close to retirement; a weak return as an investment

You may have others you could add to the list above. Please don’t get defensive as we’re just establishing some of the real opinions out there in the real world; whether they apply to you or me personally isn’t at issue. These are broad generalizations that are the realities one might be up against.

Okay, so now what? How does one go about countering the stereotypes of the ‘older’ generation of workers? A good place to start is with an honest look in the mirror. Not seeing what you want to see, but seeing yourself from another’s perspective; that of an employer. From the employer’s point of view, they’re looking for applicants that can join their organization and in as short a time as possible, start contributing.

Companies spend a lot of time building up their reputation. A small company just starting out needs to make money as soon as possible to stay afloat. They have no room to carry workers who don’t make immediate contributions to the bottom line. Larger organizations have already gone through growing pains and made adjustments to how they produce and deliver their services and goods. They need people to come in, assimilate into their workforce and not question how and why they do the things they do; just do the job you’re hired to do. Presuming you know better than the people who are in leadership roles and the existing workforce isn’t a way to stay employed long, unless of course you’re specifically recruited to bring about change.

Where it really starts of course is with you personally. Before you even apply for jobs, some changes might be well-advised. Your wardrobe might be dated; maybe you’re too formally dressed in that shirt, tie and suit jacket when the employees are dressed more casually. Look at your posture too. Are you walking stooped over, your shoulders slouched forward or shuffling your feet instead of walking upright with the energy and focus you had 15 years ago? In other words, if you don’t want to be judged as old, don’t come across as old.

Older workers have big upsides and you might need to remind yourself of this. You’ve got more than just work experience my friend, you’ve got life experience. You might just be the stabilizing force on a team of younger workers; the one who is more level-headed; not too high, not too low. You’re possibly in a place to mentor others while at the same time open to learning from those your junior. Be receptive to learning new ideas, embrace innovation and fight that stereotype of being an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.

A really good suggestion is an easy one; smile. Well, easier said than done for some, but a frowning, bitter face that scowls out at the world and comes across as negative isn’t attractive. Don’t project that the world owes you an income. View this new employer as your ally, your partner, not your enemy.

If you take a few courses and add these to your résumé you’ll be more attractive to employers too. Far too many people of all ages stop learning once they are working and have expired licences and certificates they didn’t bother renewing. Oh and because much of the general population is older, you might point out to an employer that their customer base might just appreciate being served by people who look like them; in other words, you’ll attract business.

Bottom line here? If you want to face the issue of being too old to work, don’t fit that stereotype yourself. Change what’s in your power to control.

When The Mind Is Willing But The Body Is Done


Are you one of those people who has got to the point in life where your body is no longer able to keep up with what your job requirements demand, yet that job is all you really know how to do? If so, this can be a stressful, even scary time for you as you ponder what job or career you will pursue now.

This kind of situation is actually very common, especially in positions requiring manual labour skills such as the construction field. I’ve listened to many a person tell me their stories and they share a similar theme; the person started working early in life out of necessity, often not completing high school. The money early on was good and they were young, strong, enjoyed the physical demands of the job and how it kept them in good shape. Then as time passed, they felt the aches and pains lingered on longer when the job was done and eventually they were in constant pain reaching the point where they had to quit because of back and joint pain.

The situation above is very real; the mind is still willing but the body can’t take the physical demands of the job anymore and there are younger and stronger people coming onto the job sites who will work for less money and these combine to push the person out of work. Now in their late 40’s and early 50’s, here is the person left wondering what else they could possibly be qualified to do. The resume doesn’t look all that impressive with less than high school education and a ton of experience doing construction or general labour work which they can no longer do hence the dilemma.

So is this you and your situation? Someone you know perhaps? This is a tough one isn’t it and no one knows better than you the struggle to figure out what you’re going to do with the years you still want to be productively working doing something. At your point in life going back to school to get your grade 12 diploma is scary too; after all you’ve only got your long ago memories of high school to go on and if it was difficult to finish school when you were in your teens, you imagine it can’t be easier now that your 50ish!

Well let’s look at some options shall we?  First of all, getting your grade 12 completed is an option. It doesn’t mean you have to do this, but it is an option isn’t it? What you might not know is that if you’ve only completed grade 9 or 10 and figure you haven’t got 2 or 3 years to spend in a classroom at this point in life, relax; you don’t. You’ll find that adult education schools in your area likely have programs in place that will recognize your life experience and give you credit for this. Could be you only need to take 3 or 4 courses to get that grade 12 diploma and your classmates will be adults just like you, not 17 year olds. As employers often see grade 12 as a basic requirement, getting yours could be the right move to start with.

The next thing to figure out is what exactly you’re going to do now career-wise. For some people, this is a crippling problem; all you’re qualified to do is what you’ve done and you haven’t got the ability to do that anymore. First of all, do you want to work in the same field of work anymore? If you could take your knowledge and move into a leadership role or teach younger workers what you know, would you take that kind of job? Or do you want or need to get right out of that line of work altogether?

Here’s some good advice; take one or two computer classes for people who know very little or nothing about computers. In 2016, you have to have basic computer skills to even apply for jobs. Don’t plan on just walking in and introducing yourself and asking for a chance to work. Yeah this kind of disappeared in the 90’s and except for the odd place, it’s never coming back. Today, you have to apply online or use email. You should head on down to an employment centre in your community as well as adult education schools and look into adult computer classes for beginners. You likely won’t be a computer expert, but you need more skills than you have at the moment for sure.

My final piece of advice – just to keep things short and cut to the key things – get some help from an Employment Centre where will find Job Coaches, Employment Counsellors or Career Advisors. I’m one of them but this isn’t about self-promotion. (If it was I’d name my own Centre or give you my contact details). Look, you’re an expert at what you’ve done all your life, and these career professionals are experts at what they do which is helping people like you figure out what to do next in life. You may just find their services are free anyhow.

You and I both know you want to be productive and useful. Getting the above help will keep you relevant, help you realize what you’ve got to offer and craft your resume to positions you’d genuinely be interested in.

Don’t put off getting the help you need from people who deal with people just like you every day!

Dealing With Age Prejudices And Preferences


Is your age negatively affecting your ability to get a job? Whether you’re a young-looking 25 or a spry 60-year-old, you’re experiencing age discrimination and don’t know how to position yourself as a serious job applicant in the eyes of the interviewer(s). They take one look at you when you show up and appear to dismiss you before you’ve even had a chance to make your case.

This is a – wait for it – ‘growing’ problem (groan) in society for two reasons: we have a large number of older workers who unlike generations of the past are healthier and wanting or needing to work longer. Secondly, some young people are maturing much faster at earlier ages, and when they just happen to look 18 instead of 25, they are dismissed as also having the habits and behaviours of 18 year olds; generally inappropriate to being taking seriously for real work.

This is a major hurdle to overcome because in both ends of the age spectrum, what we’re really talking about is overcoming the age biases, preferences and prejudices decision-makers hold who can advance or terminate your chance at employment. So the real challenge is what can one do to persuade the interviewer or company representative that you should be a) taken seriously as a job applicant and b) judged for your skills, experience and abilities not your age.

Okay so let’s start with one truism; interviewers are just like everybody else when it comes to sizing up people when they first meet, which is why the first impression is of critical importance. Whether it’s meeting your daughter’s boyfriend for the first time, your blind date, your new boss or co-worker or even your child’s daycare provider, we all form initial impressions; and these first impressions are where we start our interaction with a person. These first impressions we make are in part based on our past experiences with other people who look similar to the person before us.

It’s like we’ve got this massive library in our brains of people we’ve dealt with in the past. When we see someone for the first time, our brains work incredibly fast, accessing memory files of other people we’ve dealt with that have brown hair and eyes that were 18 years old, were about the same height and had that same cute or dopey look. We recall the intelligence level, our experience for good or bad with those previous people, and then unfairly perhaps, we transfer the sum attributes of those past people to the person standing before us – all in 3 or 4 seconds. Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not; but it’s also a survival mechanism that helps us determine how to react to this new person. This is why we instantly get a good or bad ‘vibe’ about someone, and we trust our instincts if they suggest we either get away quickly or can get to know the person better.

So when someone meets us who is in a position to hire, they too access their memory files, and base their first impression on how we look and behave. When we engage in both non-verbal and verbal communication, the person we are meeting adds this new information to their first impression, and this either confirms their initial impression or gives them reason to adjust their initial view of us. This is why someone feeling dismissed too early often asks for a chance to prove themselves; they’re really asking for a chance to change the persons first impression by giving them new information to process that will change the person’s point of view. In other words, what you’re attempting to do is get past a person’s biases, preferences and biases.

It is essential for a job applicant; young or old, to get a look at the workforce you want to become part of. Size up how they dress for starters. Does your choice of clothing date you as matronly and remind them of their grandmothers or is does your taste in clothes make you appear more a teenager than a mid-20’s professional? Do an assessment of your hairstyle; makeup for the ladies, facial hair for the men. Check your posture both as you sit and walk. Are you sluggish, walk slightly bent over, or appear to be disguising a limp due to age? Any of these will give the interviewer more information to add to their assessment of you for good or ill.

Another thing you simply have to do is anticipate this age liability and prepare your defence. Whether openly discussed or not, you and I both know their eyes and ears are taking in information which the brain will use to evaluate your potential as an employee.

Whether you’re young or old, consider the pros and cons of your age as age relates to the job you want. You may want to go on the offensive – especially if you feel yourself being dismissed without a legitimate shot at this job – and lay out your argument for being taken seriously.

So a young person might want to point out their maturity, stability, skill with technology and respect for the wisdom of older co-workers they can learn from. An older applicant might stress their good health, energy, life and work experience, and open attitude for learning new technology.

Seek out specific advice with respect to your situation; time well spent!

Older Workers And Legacy Projects


Have you got an employee on your team nearing retirement who strikes you as stagnant? An individual that appears to be just playing out their remaining days, isn’t contributing the way you feel they should; someone who isn’t truly invested in their work? Well that certainly is a problem, but perhaps for reasons you might not suspect.

For starters, it’s essential to note that if that person has been in your organization for a long time, it is likely that there was a time when they were more productive than they appear today. Now while that productivity has dropped off, they still have cumulative experience, expertise and wisdom that could and should be accessed and tapped into before they retire and take it with them.

In order for an organization and its employees to benefit from this individual moving forward, why not give them a legacy project? A legacy project as I term it, is shifting their focus slightly; adding to their days some time to produce something that will stay behind when they leave that could be valuable in their absence.

I think one of the key things to understand with an older more mature worker, is that they themselves experience shifts in their working environment and for many, they perhaps come to a time when they feel less valued and appreciated. Younger workers, perhaps in their 30’s – early 50’s, have more vitality, more energy and this manifests itself through innovation and creativity; looking at doing things differently and better. That of course is a natural process for people to undertake, but the older worker who doesn’t feel that same desire to learn and apply new ways of doing things may still be holding on to ‘the old ways’. The old ways as it turns out, may be the very things they themselves introduced as new once upon a time. It’s this ownership of what is being left behind that may make them feel less appreciated and undervalued.

If your workplace is ripe with people happy to transition from what was good once to something new that is better, it’s not universally easy for everyone to shift their perspective and ‘get on board’ with the new processes. Some employees – both young and old – might need more support and encouragement to learn new systems, software, procedures or practices.

It may not be that the older worker nearing retirement is stubborn; it could be that because they feel their years of experience and skills are not being acknowledged, they are in some way carrying forth a bitterness that causes them to resist what they perceive as yet another step away from what they know. When people are forced to transition to something new and they don’t have the self-motivation to move in that direction, they can experience resentment. This resentment might end up being directed at the people driving the change; as if it is they who are threatening their way of doing things.

It’s the older worker who may have written the employee manuals, workshop materials, orientation packages, production guides of the past. When someone else is designated to re-write these publications, or worse yet, volunteers to re-write these publications, this initiative can be misread as not respecting the previous ones and the people who produced them; i.e. the older worker who lately seems to have an attitude problem, is resistant to learning, fights change at every step, and appears locked in the past.

A legacy project may be the one thing that this older worker may be uniquely qualified to do above everyone else because they have been there as all along the way as change occurred and things evolved. So that the former ways don’t get lost when they leave, it may be useful to record the past so that it becomes a documented treasure. This kind of project acknowledges their past as being something of value, and gives them a purpose in the present of value.

Now not all older workers nearing retirement experience this resistance to change or a drop in productivity. We must be fair however and agree however that there are some workers who are not as open to change as they once were. These people might feel their opinions are not valued as much as they should be; their ideas aren’t listened to with respect the way they feel they should be, and this can lead to disharmony in the workplace. To do nothing, to brand the person as a problem or a stick in the mud, might be the wrong approach.

Another idea might be to encourage that individual to produce something new as an update of what they produced in the past themselves. This could require some research, including technological changes that have come about since the previous document or program was created. This combining of the old with the new both acknowledges the contribution they could uniquely make and still requires them to be knowledgeable about present trends, best practices etc.

When was the last time you told the older worker they were a valuable member of your team? And should you yourself be the older worker feeling less appreciated, when was the last time you told someone driving the change that you appreciate their desire to make things better – as you once did yourself?

There’s tremendous value locked in the memories and experiences of senior staff; value that shouldn’t leave an organization when they do.

Complaining About Online Applications


This week and last, I’ve been instructing 8 people on the very basics of using a computer. We started at proper terminology and how to turn it on, and now we’ve transitioned to making a resume, creating emails, sending documents and applying for jobs. After all, making a resume and going through the job application process is a great way to both learn the computer and possibly get work at the same time.

Every day, there are breakthrough moments for different people when what was difficult to do just the day before becomes mastered, and I’ve seen more than one person throw up their hands and say, “I did it! Yeah for me!” I love that reminder of childhood innocence when accomplishing something without the help of someone else was a major victory. There are fewer opportunities to do that for some people so good for them!

So yesterday was the second day we managed to get to the online application process. At one point in the afternoon I gave the group 1 1/2 hours to find a job, edit their resume to match the new job requirements and apply for the job either by email or using the online application process; whatever the job called for. This activity gives those in the group a good indication to themselves if they can in fact independently use their new-found computer skills to accomplish a major task.

Staying in the room and observing, I watched them browse one of 5 websites I shared with them and find a job. Then I saw them print the posting, highlight the skills required, open their resumes, make some adjustments, save the document under a new name and then send it out. For some it was easier than others. The ones who succeeded were pretty happy with themselves, and it reinforced their confidence.

One fellow however had a different experience. The job he found required him to apply online. As it turns out, he was first required to create an individual profile with the company, (which he did successfully) and then complete a rather lengthy list of questions as part of the application process. It was this part that he rebelled against. “Why do I have to give them all this information? Why can’t I just give them my resume and they hire me because I’ve got the skills to do the job?”

Knowing nothing else, take a shot at guessing his age. Go on. Did you guess between 18 and 30? I bet you didn’t. I’m going to suggest you guessed an older person, perhaps 45 or older. He is in fact in his late 40’s. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone in their late 40’s or older rebels against these application processes, nor that younger people embrace them. But it does fit with a broadly observed pattern of the older generation longing for the good old days when you could just walk in, take the sign out of the window that said, “Help Wanted”, and tell the person working there that you’re their man. Bread used to be 25 cents too. Neither are likely to happen anymore.

Now as it happens, the class had been told once you go through the process, they could be on their way home. Do it quicker, you leave earlier. Take longer, you leave closer to our regular departure time. Everyone else completed their assigned work and headed out with their thanks for the day and stepped out into the sunshine. He and I however sat there talking. The conversation is one I’ve had many times before, but it was a first with this fellow on the topic of online applications.

What I was trying to ascertain was the real problem. So was it his reluctance to complete the process or his inability to use his technical skills? Both perhaps? As it turns out, he had been able to create his unique username and password for the site, and was paused at the screen that said, “Please allow 30 – 35 minutes to complete the application questionnaire. You can save your progress and re-continue at anytime.” So it was his frustration as a job seeker having to give this company information here instead of at an interview. “Why can’t I just give them my resume, they look at it and see I’ve got the skills, and they give me the job?” he asked.

Online applications that have a lengthy number of questions do weed out applicants who can’t be bothered to go through the entire application process. On the one hand, if I was competing for the job with this fellow, I’d love the length if it was going to keep him from applying; he might be better qualified for the job than me, but I’ll sit there and complete the entire application and he won’t. Of course this logic is the very logic he feels proves his point – and I don’t entirely disagree.

Yet most jobs do require some amount of computer knowledge and basic computer skills these days. Inventory in warehouses is computerized, so even the process of putting paint cans on a showroom floor requires that initially, you have to access the computerized inventory directory to find out if you have the right brand and colour of paint to fill the voids on the shelves and where it is located. You can’t count on someone else to help you go find it on the computer all the time.

He left eventually but plans on doing the entire application this morning. I bet he does just fine.

 

 

 

 

Old Age: Barrier To Employment?


When you are twenty-six but look nineteen, your youthful looks can be a detriment to finding meaningful employment. Oh sure it becomes relatively easy to get some entry-level jobs, but the real career jobs are harder to come by because few take you seriously believing you too young to grasp the responsibilities.

At the other end of the employment spectrum, there are people who wish they looked to others to be in their late forties instead of being in their mid-fifties. Feeling that they are being dismissed because of their greying hair, these people often need employment and all it means. But if we are to believe many reports, we’ve got an aging population upon us whom over the next five-year period will represent a rather large majority of the overall population.

Now all those older people in their sixties are either not working nor interested, working still and about to retire in their near future, or be out of work and looking for employment. I have found in the last two years a most curious thing in that people younger than me are listing old age as a personal barrier to employment. Really? Does hitting a specific birthday define one as old, or does it really come down to both self-perception and how others perceive us?

Now me personally at 55 years old, I’m don’t find myself thinking about age a great deal. I guess it’s because I’m working and – no wait – it’s about HOW I’m going about working. You see I could do what the younger generations are stereotyping older workers of doing; slowing down, getting in a rut, playing out the string, talking of retirement that’s still years away for me, but I don’t.

You see, I’m one of the older people on my team at work. However, I’m extremely creative and always looking for different ways to communicate job searching tips and tools to clients. I’m the one called upon by others to write-up teaching manuals and hand-outs. I’m the one who is often putting in the extra effort with clients not just to make a resume for example, but to make a resume that is rich and stands out. My attendance is either perfect in the case of last year, or I’ve missed a single day which is good enough to win an excellent attendance award which I’ve done for the last seven years or so. I hardly have the health concerns then that younger people think the older workers have.

And that’s at the crux of this whole age issue; whitewashing an entire population where every individual must have the characteristics of the majority in that group. It’s saying that all workers near their sixties are in bad health, work slower, don’t pick up technology quickly and take afternoon naps at work. And this is about as accurate as saying all Human Resource Department people in their thirties and forties are prejudiced against hiring older workers; neither are truisms.

I do believe one thing most vehemently however and that is if you yourself buy in to feeling old and discriminated against because of it, you will be thought of that way by others too. After all, if you feel your age is a barrier to employment it’s easier to agree with you then it is to change your opinion by pointing out reasons you’re not. And to be honest, I often think that when an older person starts feeling discriminated against because of their age, perhaps that is because when they themselves were 20 years younger, they too had prejudicial opinions about older workers but have become one!

First and foremost I encourage you as an chronologically older person to think about what you have control over. You may not be able to control the number of candles on the cake, but you can re-master much. For starters walk with purpose instead of sauntering. People who walk with purpose and some jump in their steps ooze energy. Don’t move as if you are trying not to disturb the cobwebs between your legs. You can also control your hair style and colour.

When you talk to people; co-workers, employers, interviewers, recruiters or employment advisors, sound energetic. Be enthusiastic, smile, shake hands with some strength. You’ve probably had many years of experience so you should be able to relate much of that experience to the jobs you are going for now. If you are changing careers because the work you performed was too physical to do now, you should still be able to identify and promote the transferable skills you have.

You are in a better place to promote yourself for good or ill than anyone else. And so if like I say, you believe you are over the hill, why would you expect others to see you any differently? If you challenge others perceptions of being an older person by how you act and what you are capable of in addition to what you say, then you have a good chance of being perceived as still capable of making a valuable contribution.

You may have only so many years of employment left to go, but you can still market yourself to your advantage. Be positive, act confident, be friendly, take pride in your appearance, get active, be visible and network. Finding or keeping employment is a full-time job no matter your age. Like Ringo Starr sang, “It don’t come easy!”